Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No Offence!

Don’t give me too much credit for being a polite, charming man who is loathe to give offence. I am completely self-serving in this endeavor.

I learned as a boy that giving offence only got you a good beating from your parents, smacked by your teacher, rejected by girls, beaten up by boys, and hassled by police. There was no profit in it, so I tried as much as possible to forego the dubious pleasures of giving offence.

To be sure, I often gave offence inadvertently. That’s a harder thing to unlearn. It’s a lot like driving. When driving a car, it is most important not to run the car into things, but the corollary is that one must also avoid placing the car where things can run into it. Master both of these skills and people will think of you as a fine driver.

There’s another aspect to this. I am, for better or worse, a total approval junky. I constantly seek validation and approval wherever I can get it. I think that I have been like this since day one.

All human babies seek approval naturally. They are aware of their helplessness, aware that they desperately need help with every little thing, and for quite a long time too. They grovel abjectly before almost any face that presents itself, smiling, gurgling and squirming as endearingly as possible. Puppies do the same thing, and for the same reason, and this is why people like puppies and babies. Please provide for me, they ask non-verbally, the things that I need, sustenance, affection and comfort, and to be kept clean.

This behavior loses its desperate character for most human babies at some point, because they become more assured of receiving the help that they need. Finally, hopefully, they become able to provide all of those things for themselves. For some of us, though, the assurance never comes, and the desperation remains.

So please, don’t give me too much credit for being a sweet, ingratiating man. I’m probably not as nice as I seem. Actually, I’m not 100% sure myself anymore.

Monday, May 30, 2011

This Dress

"Does this dress make my ass look big?"

We had one of those "team-building" seminars last weekend, with the usual great party at the end. This years theme was Hawaiian, and I was chosen to represent my group in the "beauty contest." What a blast, and I got a prize! I was in a three-way tie for runner up, out of four, but the gifts were very nice.

I also sang two songs: "Hawaiian Wedding Song," and my new hit, "Just the Way You Are." As myself, that is, not as Princess Luana. I wanted to sing "When the Niku Niko Abu Ahu Nuku Nuku Go Swimming By," but it wasn't on the Karaoke.

This is a great job right here.

Pinky Nipple

I saw an infomercial the other day from a company named Max Estroginie. They had a product called "Pinky Nipple," eight hundred Baht ($24). I couldn't tell you the intended purpose.

Good name for a bar of a certain type, "The Pinky Nipple."

Astrud Gilberto - Agua de Beber (1965)

There are indications that Brazilian music is catching on in Thailand. Something of a surprise, actually. I've played some of it for Thai friends and they probably say something like, "is that Reggae music?"

But I've heard this particular song twice in as many weeks, once at a mall and once at a resort hotel, in the background music ("Muzak"). I've heard Brazilian music elsewhere as well, in restaurants and other public places. So it's entering the local reality, and I suppose it shouldn't be such a surprise. Who wouldn't love this song? And Astrud, with her pretty hat?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Wrapping v. The Gift

A blog that I read had a post about a study by a Japanese academic of some sort that purported to mathematically prove that White women were more beautiful than women of other races. That's a minefield right there.

The blog relates to Black issues particularly, and the comments to the post ran accordingly. But what's the point? I commented myself.

If one wants to be fair, one must admit that there are beautiful women all over the world, in every continent and country, but how important is that really? The beauty part, I mean. Most of it is mere fashion, and it becomes so subjective that the discussion quickly becomes useless.

More importantly, there are women all over the world, of all types, who are hot, hot, hot. It's the gift that is important, not the wrapping paper. I coined a new metaphor that I find very entertaining.

To paraphrase: there are women whom most men wouldn't think rated a second look, beauty wise, but who turn out to be hotter than a German machine gun on D-Day.

That's two metaphors, I suppose. Good stuff, he nodded self-approvingly.

So to sum up: a fabulous gift wrapped in plain paper is of much greater value than a forgettable gift in a beautifully wrapped package.

Pearlie White

Not about American Idol really, but there was a commercial on the show tonight that was interesting. I'm pretty sure viewers in America didn't see it. I'm pretty sure you couldn't run this commercial in America.

"I am white," it starts out. "I am the first star in the night sky . . . I am the freshness of snow . . . I am gentle . . . I am the light that starts the rainbow . . . I am the confidence behind your smile."

Sure it's a toothpaste commercial, and sure, people across all of the lines of color want white teeth, but please. "I am gentle?" I am white, and I am wonderful, isn't that a little strong? Maybe you can get away with that stuff in Asia, but America?

Although now that I think of it, wasn't American Idol a little bit on the pearly white side this year?

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Not To Name Your Band

I'm just looking up some bands that I found in the "Now Playing/Night Life/Rock and Pop" section of a year old New Yorker magazine. Found some good stuff too, New Bomb Turks ("an explosive garage band of spiky-haired Buckeyes . . ."); WhoMadeWho (Danish, "disco-punk [but] actually remarkably versatile and always entertaining"); Beach Fossils ("Brooklyn favorites offer a moody update on the sun-drenched beach hits of the sixties); Woven Bones (". . . the primal spirit of drugged-out and droning garage punk").

So here's some good advice: when picking a name for your band, don't pick something that won't allow a successful search on YouTube. All of the above bands passed the test, they were easy to find. Then I looked for a band named "Secret History." YouTube listed thousands of vid's about the secret history of everything under the sun, except the band. I was curious, since the band make "lushly emotive pop by adding big guitar hooks to chilly synthesizer work and sweetly harmonized choruses . . ."

Maybe I'll try Google. "Secret History," and "band," maybe add "Lisa Ronson." How to word search is such a critical skill these days.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

the watts 103rd St. rhythm band - express yourself

I'm not really doing anybody any favors here, this song has been used in lots of movies. Just trying to get into the action I suppose, hoping some of the cool will rub off. If I was at home, I'd play the album, but I'm not. Maybe next year.

Blame It On My Youth

As one gets older, one inevitably begins to question the judgments that one made in one's youth. Would it have been better to have joined the Air Force rather than the Navy, or would it have been better still to have avoided the military all together? Was my persistence in that other matter pure folly or was it only a sign of good character? Was that favorite pair of shoes really so special after all?

So it is that I wonder: was Jay Leno ever actually funny? I seem to recall a time when I thought that he was funny. If ever there was such a time upon the earth, the light of it has gone out with a completeness that has not existed since God put the kibosh on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Great Saying, New To me

I was watching some tennis match the other day and one of the announcers, an Englishman I think, made a reference to a common breakfast meal.

To clarify a point he was making about the two players, he said:

"It's like ham and eggs; the chicken is involved but the pig is committed."

Never heard that one before, but I like it.

Not Quite A Movie Review: Bride Of Frankenstein

1935, directed by James Whale, that "Bride of Frankenstein."

This is a great movie all around. Great character development in the monster, and a fabulous job by Boris Karloff, learning to speak, making friends, and showing an incredible range of emotion. The greatest Frankenstein portrayal of all time, and he's in almost every scene. But the real key to the movie is Dr. Praetorius, played by Ernest Thesiger.

My favorite line of all time comes as Dr. P is catching a late snack by candlelight in a crypt, dining on top of the coffin that he has just looted, drinking wine, chatting amiably with the skull of a woman who died at 19, ruminating on philosophy and giggling crazily. The monster walks into the light, and Dr. P doesn't miss a beat. "Oh," he says, nonchalantly, "I thought I was alone. Good evening!"

He's funny too. He offers Henry a gin: "it's my only weakness!" He offers the monster a cigar: "it's my only weakness!" When Henry points out to Elizabeth that Dr. P was dismissed from his position as a professor, he replies with great hurt, "I was booted out, booted! my dear lady is the word, for knowing too much."

Elizabeth is great too, played by Valerie Hobsen. That's a great figure right there. She plays it on the verge of hysteria, and very well.

There are beautiful little touches in the script and direction. As the monster enters a graveyard at night he spots the statue of a bishop. He reacts with horror and attacks it, knocking it over. Whatever his bad points, at least he's anti-clerical.

It's all about the bride, however, and predictably the monster is disappointed. "She hate me! Like others." He reacts by destroying everything in sight.

He's still the monster, after all.

River To Nowhere

One of the things that I explain to my students in every class is that if they play their cards right they can get somewhere in this life. The secret, I tell them, is to have a good idea of where you want to get, keep your eyes on it, and take one step after the other, all in the same direction. I'm a natural born counselor, I am, I was born to give advice to other people. To myself? Not so much.

This blog is a perfect example. Did you ever see so much meandering in your life? There's no theme, no overriding passion. I wander around a field like a bull who thinks he sees some dandelions, you know, over there. It's not a road map to anywhere in particular. It's sure not a road map to readership or getting paid.

It's no surprise, this lack of focus. After all, how many people do you know who have had over fifty jobs in their lives? Probably only one: me.

Wait, I think I see some dandelions.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cornell Dupree with Jon Hammond & Bernard Purdie 1989 Mikell's

RIP Cornell Dupree, Brother Cornell has left the building.

He was the son of Champion Jack Dupree, the great piano player. I remember an old interview with Champion Jack. It was long enough ago that I suppose Cornell wasn't common knowledge. The guy asked him, "are your children musical?" "Cornell plays the guitar," said Jack, "he's doing pretty good up in New York."

Cornell really played around, so he must have been a nice guy. Fare thee well, Brother.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Vanilla Beans ♥ TicTac

Some Club-Pop to lighten the mood. Could they be any cuter, singing their cute song about Tikoo-Takoos?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cool Web Site Alert: Photos of Marc Lamarre

I ran into this guy out in Buriram, and the Panom Rung Temple. He's Canadian, and boy to they have some great ideas up there. He's some kind of public servant, works at a state university library I think, and they have this program where you can work for three-fourths pay for eighteen months straight and then keep collecting the three-fourths pay for six months off. I think that's right, I'm no mathematician.

Whatever, he takes these six months vacations that are super bad-ass. He's quite the photographer too, so checking out his pictures is worth the time.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Khun Boo Freerick

It's official, Mr. Fred is a grandfather. Welcome to the last stage of life! Time to make your peace with God. (Metaphorically speaking, of course!)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Another Heartbreaking Problem That Could Be Mitigated, But Won't Be

The New Yorker had a nice article last month called “The Poverty Clinic.” It described recent experiences of Dr. Nadine Burke. Dr. Burke got her MD from U.C. Davis, then added an MA in Public Health from Harvard. She's thirty-six-years-old or so, and she's beautiful, she has a wonderful smile. She has a house in Portero Hill in San Francisco, and she's engaged to a rich solar-energy entrepreneur. She was raised in a happy, prosperous family in Palo Alto. She is the director of the Bayview Child Health Center, in the poorest section of San Francisco, where the life experiences of the children are as different from her's as night is from day. They're all depressed; I doubt if she's ever had a depressed day in her life.

Dr. Burke is naturally concerned with the depression of her patients, it is no surprise to her that they are all depressed. The surprise came when she read a six year old article, based in research from the early 1990's, that described how adverse childhood experiences engendered permanent physical changes to the brain (and various chemical systems) that led not only to adult depression, but also to a lifetime of dangerous health results. The surprise was that she was surprised.

(The article that she read was “The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health,” by Vincent J. Felitti, a Kaiser preventative medicine doctor. The prior study was “The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,” done at Kaiser between 1994 and 1998.)

Surely this is all common knowledge in the medical and public health communities by now. I'm not a doctor, and I do not read medical literature, yet even I have been reading about this phenomenon for many years now. I will spare you a detailed description of the physical changes that prolonged exposure to serious stress creates. They are permanent and negative, and you can look it up if you don't want to take my word for it. It is now accepted as a basis for long-term clinical depression.

My vested interest in this problem is that I am a sufferer. These are the adversities listed for the study:

Divorce in the family (let's include abandonment);

Physical abuse;

Emotional neglect;

Sexual abuse;

Parental mental illness; and

Parental alcoholism/drug abuse.

My own “ACE score” is five-out-of-six ACE's, and my own experience of my life informs me that this is a bad score. Many doctors agree.

And these are big-time doctors too. The New Yorker article lists as researchers/believers Bruce McEwen, a Rockefeller University neuroendocrinologist; Frances Champagne, a Columbia neuroscientist; and Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist. So maybe doctors should be paying more attention, or at least be more aware of what's going on in their profession.

This ACE thing is fact-based, research-based, and the literature is clear. So obvious questions arise: why are serious-minded doctors and public health officials still surprised to discover this information? More importantly: why hasn't this knowledge led to more interventionist policies to mitigate the conditions that give rise to such disastrous results?

The article was silent on the attitude of officialdom to this whole scene, but I can explain it well enough. As so often happens, the answers to these questions are related to money. Dr. Burke skirts the real problem when she says, “this is a huge, huge issue, and as a society I don't think we've even come close to grasping its significance.”

That's “huge, huge . . .” as in really, really expensive. Expenditures would be very helpful, and lead to savings down the line and quality-of-life improvements for many individuals. And yet it's all preventative, it's all prospective, which in today's financial climate means that no budget can be justified. People want to cut funds for Head Start, for Christ's sake, and that program has always shown provable, positive results.

So it's a lot like Global Climate Change. The power brokers criticize the research, condemn the results of the research, offer disingenuously to perform studies, and push the whole issue down the road. It's just not possible these days to spend money now to avoid certain, expensive problems in the future.

It is way too late for any of this to help me, but I feel sympathy for all of the children living now in conditions that will inevitably lead to a lifetime of negative consequences. Our medical system deigns to treat their current medical symptoms, because they are real and observable, while choosing to ignore the ticking time bomb lying inside the very experiences of their lives.

Free Rick!

Last week I got to the Law Building (Number Two) to teach a class and was flagged down by one of the department secretaries. She's very nice, I've spoken to her at our department parties, even danced with her a couple of times. No English though, hardly a word. She wanted to tell me something, but it was tough going.

The hard part for most Thais is slowing down and simplifying their language. We got through it though, I was to report to a certain building the next morning to get my picture taken for an ID card.

I was ecstatic at the prospect! I've never had one, it's three and a half years now, and I kind of wondered why. It helps on our extracurricular duties. I've never had one because no one ever bothered to tell me to go get one on the one day of the year that they take the pictures. It was a total accident that I ran into her, and God bless her courage in tackling the job of telling me about it.

So yesterday I stopped by the office and sure enough, there was my new ID card waiting for me (on a nice Ramkhamhaeng University lanyard too!). There was one little surprise.


I didn't know what to think at first, but I decided that I like it. It's distinctive, I may be the only person in the world with that name.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

For The Brothers, Far From Home

My generation had lots of brothers etc far from home too. There were tons of pop songs about it in the Sixties. For example:

"Jimmy Mack"

"Oh, Jimmy Mack, Jimmy, oh! Jimmy Mack, when are you coming back?"

"Wait 'Till My Bobby Comes Home"

". . . you'd better leave me alone! Sure I need some loving, and kissing and hugging, 'gonna wait until my Bobby comes home."

"My Boyfriend's Back"

(answer to Jimmy Mack) "He was gone for such a long time, (hey now . . !), but now he's back and things'll be fine."

"Mr. Postman"

". . . from my boyfriend so far away . . . is there a card . . . saying he's returning home to me?"

"A Thousand Miles Away"

". . . but I still have your love to remember you by."

"Daddy's Home"

(Answer to "A Thousand Miles Away") "Daddy's home to stay (I'm not a thousand miles away!)"

These were all Vietnam songs, Old School draft songs. Up till '70 or so, everybody had to go, unless you were clever like Newt Gingrich (married his math teacher), or Patrick Buchanan (bad knees, unless he felt like going skiing), the list goes on.

These songs are to be distinguished from jail songs, like "Golden Teardrops," where the enforced absence is do to unfortunate incarceration.

(I had a better list in a notebook, but it's in a box nine time zones away and I can't get to it right this minute.)

Are there any songs now about brothers/boyfriends far off fighting for whatever? I wouldn't even know if there were, probably.

The Last Poets - Black Is (Chant)

This one only takes a minute. (Literally.)


Surprisingly light list of the Last Poets on the 'Tube. Shame, really. I haven't checked, but I'm sure that there's lots of Katy Perry (nice tits but so what?), Miley Cyrus (now, really!), Rhiannon or somebody (I saw her on 'Idol, she was chunky and dull), and God knows whoever else is unaccountably popular these days.

As the 'Poets said, "wake up, white people!" And everybody else, most people are asleep these days. Listen up! There's tons of great shit out there.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Not gonna do it. Look elsewhere. This ain't no news site.